Missouri Supercomputing Team Crowdsources the Fight Against COVID-19

Folding@home project’s simulations of the COVID-19 spike protein. The three colors represent components of the spike protein; this is the protein that the novel coronavirus uses to infect cells.

People around the world are staying home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But now, you can do more than wait. You can join the fight!

Crowdsourced supercomputing project Folding@home is trying to understand the structure of COVID-19’s spike protein, which is what the virus uses to infect cells. And your computer can be a key part of the team.

The project relies on the collective power of volunteers’ home computers to perform the complex calculations required to simulate protein dynamics. The project is led by computational biophysicist Greg Bowman, PhD, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“Understanding all the various shapes that the spike protein can take on as its molecules bounce and shift can lead to the development of new drugs that can block it, stopping the virus from infecting more cells,” said Bowman. “We are continuing to scale up our research as fast as we can.”

Volunteers who want to help with the research can install a software program that runs complex calculations when a computer otherwise would sit idle. Such research could reveal ways to block the protein and thus the infection. Since announcing the new focus on coronavirus in late February, the number of Folding@home volunteers has skyrocketed, with some 400,000 new users joining the effort.

“The response so far has been overwhelming and wonderful, but there is always more useful science to be done,” said Bowman.

To join the effort and put your computer to work in the fight against COVID-19, visit https://foldingathome.org.

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